IEFG Semi Annual Meeting: Raising the Quality of Teaching


April 24, 2015

The IDP Rising Schools Program attended the International Education Funders Group (IEFG) meeting in Portugal this week, to engage in a large group discussion on the importance of raising the quality of teaching at a global scale.

The IEFG began back in 2006, as a way for foundations and donor-advised funds granting specifically in education in the developing world to casually convene, share knowledge, and connect with one another. The group formally launched in 2011, and is dedicated to helping advance global development and education agendas by improving funders’ strategic analyses and thinking, informing and assisting their grantmaking, and providing opportunities for collective learning and action. To date, there are 83 members, and we continue to grow.

There is much to be said about the reciprocity between teacher and student, as both are learners and both are teachers. The meeting highlighted some of the innovative programs focusing on increasing the effectiveness of teaching, especially in the developing world, while also highlighting sustainability, motivational, and financial challenges facing the entire sector.

As a program, IDPRS resonated with conversations on teacher preparation, professional development, and the importance of building supportive teacher systems, as we often see untrained teachers working in the low-cost private school sector. The Early Childhood Development conversations had us contemplating the building of the brain and the various environmental and social impacts that can inhibit that development; such as nutrition, trauma, and poor health. The various subgroups that took place over lunch opened a dialogue about girls’ secondary education, the impact of the Post-2015 agenda on educational policy, and gaps in monitoring learning outcomes. All of which impact teaching in one way or another.

We greatly appreciated the thought provoking questions and presentations put on by our colleagues, the wealth of information brought to the meeting by practitioners, and the passion for education exhibited throughout the meeting. Key takeaways from the meeting were broad, allowing for varied applications by individual foundations. The general idea that teaching is a collective endeavor for instance, will mean different things to different. The need to focus on practices that encourage community based educator competencies will be altered based on cultural, geographic, and socio-economic contexts. The IDPRS team is excited to begin brainstorming on how to integrate some of the information we received into our program.


Exciting Things Are On The Horizon


April 17, 2015

Spring is finally here, and although the weather in Chicago is still trying to sort itself out, there is evidence that new growth, greener scenery, and warmer days are upon us. Something similar is happening here in the IDP Foundation, Inc. office as well, with lots of new projects, opportunities, and tools pushing us into the second quarter of 2015.

Last week, we announced our partnership with Eneza Education, and mentioned a scoping trip that was taken in February of this year. Prior to that, we made the decision to begin working on a mapping project utilizing the amazing software that is offered by software company, ESRI. We hope to begin mapping our schools across Ghana, and sharing that data as it becomes available, but in the meantime we are excited to be utilizing the mobile map application, and want to share our first map attempt from our scoping trip to Ghana can be found here.

IDPF President, Irene Pritzker, is slated to speak at two upcoming conferences this month, focusing on the role and operations of family foundations. April 22, 2015 she will be participating on the Impact Capitalism Summit’s Family Office Panel, followed by offering her expertise on the Nuts and Bolts of Impact Investing on April 26, 2015 at the Council on Foundation’s Annual Meeting in San Francisco.

Looking forward into fall, the Sustainable Development Goals are keeping everyone busy, with a slew of conferences and meetings taking place to help develop those ideas further. This May, Irene, and IDPRS Executive Director Allison Rohner, will be heading to Incheon, South Korea to participate in the World Education Forum hosted by UNESCO. Here they will hear how UNESCO and UNICEF have been working with a wide array of stakeholders to shape education beyond 2015.

At the same time in May, IDPRS Program Associate, Jenna O’Brien, will be heading to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to attend the eLerning Africa’s 10th International Conference on ICT for Development, Education, and Training. With the IDPRS program venturing into the mobile learning technology, we are excited to learn more about technology’s role in expanding and transforming education across the continent of Africa. Additionally, she will also be making a trip to Northern Ethiopia, to stop by Mekelle University and get an update on our grantee, the Mela Project.

Stay on the lookout for all of these new upcoming updates


We Have a New Partner!


April 10, 2015

IDP Foundation, Inc. and the IDP Rising Schools Program (IDPRS) are pleased to announce a new partnership with Eneza Education; a virtual tutor and teacher assistant accessible on low-cost basic mobile phones. Started by Toni Maraviglia, a Teach for America corps member and former New York teacher, and Kago Kagichiri, a Kenyan developer, Eneza was created to give students access to information that will improve their intelligence and general knowledge. Designed as a way to engage students outside of traditional rote learning, the Eneza product increases critical thinking and inspires curiosity.

After meeting Toni at the Unreasonable Institute in Colorado, IDPF President, Irene Pritzker, knew that the product was something that could contribute exponentially to the educational landscape in Ghana, and thus talks began. What was discussed was an exploration into bringing a new technology to the low cost private schools already enrolled in the IDPRS program, and a strong focus on helping the JHS students pass their Basic Education Certification Exams (BECEs); which allow students to enter into secondary school.

In February of this year, the two teams met in Accra for a very successful scoping trip, as a way to begin formulating a more solid project framework. Over the course of two weeks, the teams met with proprietors in ten different schools in both the Kumasi and Accra regions, which also included demonstrations of the product to teachers, students, and parents. Meetings were also had with mobile network providers and potential local partners who could serve as resident implementers.

As a result of the trip and the conversations had, it was decided that the IDP Foundation, Inc. would make a program related investment for the creation of JHS 3 content, consisting of 50 mini lessons, quizzes, and answer explanations for a pilot that is set to begin at the start of the academic year in September. The content is to be developed by teachers certified by the Ghanaian Education Service to construct curriculum, and it will be vetted by head teachers to assure accuracy. Additionally, the incorporation of teacher content will be included, with tips on classroom management, student engagement, discipline, and even lesson planning.

Because Eneza’s mission is to make 50 million kids across rural Africa smarter, the cost of the product is extremely low, hovering at about $0.50 a month for unlimited use, which is one of the most affordable supplemental education tools our team has ever come across. They are committed to the quality of their product and will partner with a local organization in Ghana to secure the project’s sustainability.

Stay tuned for updates on this exciting new project!

Rural Communities and the Post-2015 Agenda

Yaa Baah BL2

March 26, 2015

This week, the Guardian posted a fantastic article written by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, urging those responsible for guiding the negotiations of the proposed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), not to underestimate the importance of continual investment in rural development.

The idea behind rural development is nothing new, at both the international and domestic level the goal is the same; to improve the quality of life and fiscal security of those living in fairly isolated and sparsely occupied areas. Traditionally, the concept of rural development has focused mainly on agriculture, but there has been a shift to include a wider perspective in ways of targeting solutions to poverty and hunger through driving local development, promoting education, improving physical and social infrastructure, and sustainable use and management of national resources.[1]

Those living in rural and peri-urban communities, are thought about when targets are developed, specifically thinking about poverty and hunger, but are never focused on as active solutions to the problem; which is interesting to think about as “more than three-quarters of the global poor are in rural areas.”[2] The article argues that investing in small family farmers, those breeding livestock, fisherfolk, rural workers, indigenous peoples, and entrepreneurs are keys to promoting growth and pushing forward economic development in depressed regions.

The IDP Foundation, Inc. would agree whole heartedly with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, on a myriad of things within this article, particularly on the topic of the strong entrepreneurial spirit already existing in the rural sector. This spirit is something we regularly see in our IDP Rising Schools Program (IDPRS) operating in Ghana, as 41% of our school proprietors giving educational access to children are doing so in remote areas; with another 45% operating in the peri-urban space.  These individuals are not only helping achieve the Education for All target put forth in the Millennium Development Goals and backed by UNESCO, but they are also giving women the same access to opportunities as their male counterparts, which according to research has been shown to significantly reduce the number of poor and hungry people in a community.[3]

The article also talks about partnerships, both public and private, to place equal focus on both the urban and rural areas when it comes to policy, and we would argue these policies should not only focus on the rural agricultural development but also social and educational to build a more inclusive and just civil sector and society; which would include low cost private schools and their owners since they too benefit the public good. Without education, the 17 overly ambitious SDGs and their 169 targets being set for the post-2015 agenda will not be possible, as sustainability can only come from localized development and targeted education.

We too ask that the rural people not be forgotten in this time of goal setting, and challenge those responsible for negotiations with the General Assembly to create an inclusive as well as equitable education agenda.

[1] Ward, Neil; Brown, David L. (1 December 2009). “Placing the Rural in Regional Development”. Regional Studies 43 (10): 1237–1244.



Cost of Post-2015 SDGs Proves Partnerships with Local School Owners can be Beneficial

Hilltop Queen Esther School

March 12, 2015

UNESCO’s Education for All Global Monitoring Report (GMR) released a new paper “Pricing the right to education: The cost of reaching new targets by 2030” to consider the immense costs associated with the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals on participating States. The analysis takes into account all low and lower middle income countries, which face the greatest challenges in education provision and are the most likely to need external assistance, as well as the rise in the number of children entering schools. [1]

The key findings show that there is a US$22 billion annual external financing gap that must be filled if low and lower middle income countries are to reach “quality, universal pre-primary, primary, and lower secondary education.”[2] Additionally, the GMR also shows that there is going to also be a significant increase in the cost per student, government spending on education, and the need for aid to quadruple in some cases to help meet the 15 year targets.

Looking at the financial challenges that lie ahead, it is clear that multi-lateral partnerships with governments across the globe will be a top priority if we are to reach the educational development goals of the post-2015 agenda for all children. Support will need to be both sustainable and incredibly creative, and in-house changes will need to be cost effective and educationally relevant.

The IDP Foundation, Inc. fully believes portions of the post-2015 agenda can be met, regardless of financing, if those involved would only look towards the low-cost private school (LCPS) sector as an added resource to the solution.  With costs rising to finance the goals, the governments should welcome the LCPS sector, as they are already currently educating students at no cost to the government. Partnerships with these schools, as well as access to resources, could net a huge return in the goal of universal pre-primary, primary, and lower secondary education are to be met by 2030.

Resources such as allowing private school teachers to attend public in service trainings, providing access to affordable and reliable transportation to allow children to get to and from school, as well as connecting with proprietors regarding educational goals for the country are all ways to ensure children receive and have access to quality education, at a minimal cost to the government.

A great example of a partnership currently happening in Ghana is with an IDP Rising Schools Program (IDPRSP) graduate, Benjamin Kofu Boateng and the Peaceland Preparatory School. Benjamin got involved with IDPRS soon after it began in 2010 by joining the second group of schools offered access to microfinance capital after completing training to purchase a larger plot of land that could comfortably support his expanding low-cost private school. Although he was very lucky to have secured a sizable property, it was a great deal further from its original location, making it difficult for his students to maintain regular attendance. Utilizing his proprietor training foundation, Benjamin decided to take out another small loan from SinapiAba Trust in order to purchase a small school bus to aide in transportation. As the school grew, it was obvious that another bus was needed, but instead of taking out a loan Benjamin wanted to find a local partner to help keep costs low and maintain a level of safety for the students.

Understanding costs and income as well as perseverance and persistence, all of which are taught as part of the proprietor training offered by the IDP Rising Schools Program, we were pleased to hear that Benjamin took the initiative to effectively pursue and successfully establish a partnership with the Ghana Metro Mass Transit System to assist Peaceland Preparatory with their bussing of students.  Government partnerships and registration are a core value of our program, and every morning students in upper primary are transported to the new campus and back to their homes via efficient, safe, and reliable transportation for a small fee that is manageable by the school.

The post-2015 agenda has ambitious targets, which come at a steep financial burden to those countries that are classified as low and lower middle income. Incorporating the low-cost private school sector into the policy provisions in helping to reach these education goals through affordable partnerships, and ensuring all students are receiving the best form of quality education, regardless if it is public or private, is a great start.

[1] ambitious-new-vision



IDP Foundation President Mentors at Village Capital 2015 Ed Tech Cohort


Photo by Village Capital

February 27, 2015

Back in January, Village Capital and Citi Community Development announced that they would be partnering together to create a program to promote entrepreneurship and improve education in local communities.

Comprised of three sessions, two in Washington, DC and one in Chicago, the Village Capital Ed Tech: US 2015 selected a group of 11 early stage ventures to participate in their three-month outcome based  accelerator program.  The program would provide the entrepreneurs   with critical business development training, mentorship from local business leaders and investors and face-to-face interaction with potential customers. At the end of the program, the entrepreneurs rank each other according to six criteria, and the two highest peer-ranked ventures each receive $50,000 in pre-committed capital.

The Chicago session commenced this week, working in the Impact Engine Office at the 1871 building, and IDP Foundation, Inc. President, Irene Pritzker, was honored to be involved. Selected by Village Capital to be a mentor, Irene used her experience as a foundation President and expertise in sustainable education models and impact investing to advise these nascent education social enterprises.

Irene hosted a kick-off reception in her home to welcome the cohort participants, Village Capital team, mentors, and key Chicago figures to the area.  The workshop began the following day and Irene enjoyed participating in a workshop session where she provided insight, constructive criticism and feedback on the enterprises’ business models. Her experience with Village Capital’s Ed Tech event left her feeling  overwhelmingly excited about the technological creativity that was presented to change the educational landscape, and cannot wait to see where each of the cohort members moves after the program.

Look for more information on the sessions via twitter by searching #VilCapEd2015

IDPRS Team Visits Ghana


February 12, 2015

The IDP Rising Schools team embarked on their first 2015 trip to Ghana to sit down and speak with school proprietors and tour the grounds at both schools from the initial pilot program as well as from the recent expansion.

The team has been traveling around both Accra and Kumasi with our partners from Sinapi Aba Trust, scouting schools for a potential launch of a mobile learning tool, checking in on some of the infrastructure improvement happening at the learning institutions, and even meeting with parents.

Keep an eye out for some pictures of their travels to be posted when they return.

enedicta Boateng-Apeadu, IDPRS Country Director (left), Jenna M. O'Brien, IDPRS Program Associate (middle), Anna Amegatcher, Analyst at Growth Mosaic Ltd. (right)

Benedicta Boateng-Apeadu, IDPRS Country Director (left), Jenna M. O’Brien, IDPRS Program Associate (middle), Anna Amegatcher, Analyst at Growth Mosaic Ltd. (right)

Brookings Institute Unveils Key Issues for the African Continent in 2015


January 29, 2015

The end of the year is always ushered in with a wave of excitement, with both individuals and organizations alike reviewing the best things to have happened, and eagerly anticipating those yet to come. Plans are made, goals are set, and all in one night the slate is cleaned and we begin again.

This process, however, isn’t limited to just individuals and organizations, we see it in new governmental agendas impacting whole countries, successes and failures of international and domestic policies, as well as predictions of what will be the biggest issues entire continents will face in the coming year.

Earlier this month, the Africa Growth Initiative at the Brookings Institute released an in-depth report on what they believe to be the top priorities for Africa in 2015. The research conducted by the scholars involved in the initiative was extremely detailed, with topics ranging from the upcoming political elections, economic development throughout Africa, the post-2015 agenda, and even Ebola all made the cut. Reviewing the report, each area was thoroughly considered and does a fine job of explaining to the reader the reasoning behind its inclusion and what we can possibly expect to see in terms of impact on the continent and the specific countries.

Something interesting to note, however, is that education was not included as a top priority in this particular list. Perhaps because education is able to be intertwined into each of the topical areas, that its blatant inclusion was deemed unnecessary or over redundant, there is after all an education specific portion of the post-2015 agenda. However, in certain instances, for example the elections in Nigeria, it seemed pertinent to note that as it stands currently, Nigeria is one of the most dangerous places to obtain a free education; particularly for female students. Creating a clear connection to the vital importance the upcoming presidential elections will play in having a significant influence over both the quality and overall safety of these public institutions. Additionally, when one thinks about the history of post-election violence jeopardizing the welfare of Nigerian citizens and creating regional instability, it would seem that the inclusion of how to protect and monitor educational institutions should be specifically mentioned. While we understand education is a general understood norm as we review the top priorities for Africa, it should be promoted and highlighted within these components.

The article also lists aspects of the upcoming post-2015 agenda, another area where education is not, but could have been highlighted. There are three prongs to the agenda: job creation, infrastructure and governance, and peace/security/institutional reform. Particularly as they relate to Africa, we see the growth of the labor force, large numbers of youth, and increasing inequality. Education can be a catalyst for creating a more skilled labor force and is one of the major overhauls that require reform on a public level.

So it begs the question, “Why not include education as its own priority for 2015?”

If we are to see continued growth in Africa in 2015 and beyond, it is imperative to begin highlighting education within the aspects of the shifting political agendas. There are many facets of education that can aid a country in their development progress and even strengthen governmental platforms. Education is, and always will be, a top priority here at the IDP Foundation, as we understand its crucial impact on the human story of individuals, families, communities, nations and the entire globalized world we live in.

The Holiday Conversation Guide to the PRI




December 19, 2014

The Question: “So your job is to figure out how to give away money?!”

When you meet new people the “What do you do for work?” conversation is a regular accompaniment, and more often than not when the phrase ‘grantmaking’ comes up, someone in the group will ask something like, “So, your job is to figure out how to give away money?!”

While true, that is one component of grantmaking, it’s crucial to explain in these conversations that work at a foundation is much more complex than that. When explaining that we have at our disposal various creative tools we can use to deploy our funding, the conversation usually becomes the most interesting one of the night. As such, in light of the holiday season and accompanying parties in full swing, we felt it was imperative to provide our readers with the IDP Foundation Holiday Conversation Guide to explaining the greatness of one such tool – the Program Related Investment (PRI).

The Answer: “We use other creative tools like PRI’s to create the biggest social impact possible!”

Program Related Investments, or PRIs, are a type of lending instrument that is often used by foundations as an addition to the traditional grantmaking process. They have been around since the ‘70s and hold “incredible potential for the social enterprise arena” and are something to be excited about if you are interested in tackling tough social issues.[1] Inclusive in the annual 5% distribution requirement, PRIs must further “some aspect of the foundations charitable mission, cannot be used to support any political campaigns, and the production of income or the appreciation of property is not a significant purpose of the investment as it should be structured to produce lower financial returns.”[2] PRIs can take on many forms, but are usually defined as loans, loan guarantees, and equity investments that can range anywhere from $1,000 to several million dollars with below market interest rates.

The decision to pursue the path of a PRI in lieu of making a grant is that with PRI’s there is a potential to provide a return of philanthropic capital either through repayment or a return on equity. This is the great part about the PRI, because as the funds are repaid, they can then be redistributed to other high-impact organizations in the form of PRI’s or grants. Additionally, PRIs can allow foundations more involvement, increased accountability from the organization, and even potential ownership. Meanwhile, borrowers gain secure financing for projects that could be considered too risky by traditional commercial lenders, gain access to larger pools of funds at a lower return cost, and help foster a more bankable organization over time by helping to establish a credit history.[3]

Examples of PRI’s from the IDP Foundation

Despite heightened interest and clear value in the PRI model, many foundations are still slow to integrate them into their financial portfolio. Labeled too risky by some members of the financial community, some of the most well-known foundations have been engaging with the PRI model for over 40 years with no complaints. Thus, the IDP Foundation, Inc. (IDPF) was comfortable and excited about using a “new” lending instrument. IDPF made its first program related investment to Sinapi Aba Trust. This relationship originally started with a grant to help create and pilot the IDP Rising Schools Program (IDPRSP).

Following this grant was the Foundation’s first PRI to further the expansion the IDPRSP throughout Ghana. This was believed to be the best strategy possible to set up the partner for sustainable success and continued support without the reliance of aid.  A second PRI to Sinapi Aba Trust was made this year, but with higher expectations on the rate of return. Our experience with Sinapi Aba Trust highlights another unique benefit to the borrower of a PRI, which is the long term relationship that an organization can develop with a funder to ensure positive impact is made.

This year, IDPF also used a PRI, to support the “Maya Angelou: The People’s Poet” documentary.  This is the first documentary to be made about the life of the late Dr. Maya Angelou.  Maya Angelou has lived not one life, but half a dozen: from her hardscrabble roots in the Depression-era South to supper club chanteuse, performer in Porgy & Bess, coordinator for Martin Luther King’s SCLC, journalist in Egypt and Ghana, comrade of Malcolm X, eyewitness to the Watts riots and best-selling author of “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” her life has uncannily intersected with some of the most profound moments in modern American history and culture. IDPF believes that Dr. Angelou’s contributions to the educational landscape are monumental and a PRI provides a perfect vehicle to offer support for this project.[4]

The film will air on PBS’ American Masters in 2016 and is being directed by Bob Hercules and Rita Coburn Whack.  The filmmakers have been working on the project for three years and captured over 4 hours of interviews with Maya Angelou prior to her passing in May.  The film features an amazing array of Maya’s friends and colleagues including Oprah Winfrey, Secretary Hillary Clinton, Quincy Jones, Lou Gossett, Jr., Diahann Carrol, Common, Alfe Woodard, Valerie Simpson, Jules Feiffer and many more.

Ready to discuss PRI’s?

So what about you fellow readers? What kind of program related investments would you find exciting? Or if you have experience with them, what PRI’s are you proud of?

Hopefully this blog gets you thinking about the opportunities behind PRI’s. At the very least, you should now have a basic understanding of PRI’s and be armed with a couple of examples so you can answer those pesky holiday party questions! Even more importantly, as you engage in your discussions, don’t forget to reflect on how those PRI’s, grants, individual donations, and the people behind the scenes are all working together to build stronger and more sustainable solutions slowly breaking down the cycle of poverty to make the world a more equitable place.


Interested in learning more about impact investing? Check out our other blog post, “Putting our Corpus to Work: The IDP Foundation Embraces Impact Investing

Reflecting on the African Scholars Program


The month of December brings about many exciting times. For some it’s the start of the holiday season, gearing up for multiple gatherings with family and friends, and basking in the spirit of giving. Others look to December as a time to reflect on the accomplishments of another year gone too quickly and start to focus on what new beginnings will come in January.

December 4, 2014

As the end of 2014 rapidly approaches, we at the IDP Foundation, Inc. are reflecting on a five-year grant to the Field Museum that comes to a close this December. This $500,000 grant to the African Training Fund assisted the Field Museum in executing the African Scholars Program for undergraduate and graduate science students. Started in 2009 to promote the development of highly trained African scientists, these special scholarships were only made available to talented students who could not otherwise afford to attend university.

As a result of our grant, the Museum established partners with Makere University (Uganda), the University of Antananarivo (Madagascar), the University of Dar-es-Salaam (Tanzania) and other prominent African Universities to offer up to ten scholarships every year, for five years, to those who were studying biology, anthropology, botany, geology, biochemistry, molecular biology or other fields related to the natural sciences. The selected students were paired with Field Museum scientists who acted as informal advisors and mentors.  When the opportunity presented itself, the students were also able to receive special training from Field Museum scientists during both fieldwork sessions and regional workshops.

With the grant coming to a close, we are proud to have been instrumental in impacting over 46 students and scientists directly through funding their important research, thereby encouraging the development of more African intellectuals in country.

Notable Standouts of the Program:


  • Paul Kirika, who is in the final stages of becoming the first PhD mycologist in Kenya and in all of East Africa, worked with Field Museum Curator Thorsten Lumbosch on lichens of the world; this resulted in a special exhibit put on by the Field Museum this year.




  • Despite violent civil war and unrest, Hassan Babiker in South Sudan was able to successfully complete his research on small mammal diversity, abundance, species richness, and habit in three national parks which will be the basic guiding principles in the country’s long-term conservation management plan.



Dr. Paul Webala

  • Field Museum’s Bruce Patterson and Kenyan scientist Dr. Paul Webala collected data on over 104 species of bats in the protected areas of Kenya, providing a large majority of information to be used in producing a definitive guide to the many types of bats found in the area. Much of their work can be seen in the African Bats exhibit going on now at the Field Museum, and they are working to make a few more Brain Scoop videos with Emily Graslie on the research to inspire others to be passionate about science.


We could not be more pleased with the research that has been funded by our grant in partnership with the Field Museum, and fully believe these contributions to scientific exploration will create an extended community of people interested in sustainable solutions for various issues in Africa.